Mario Andretti was the star guest as Motor Sport columnist Bobby Rahal launched his historic racing series in the US
With Lotus as the theme , Mario Andretti was the perfect figure to wave the green flag at the inaugural Legends of Motorsport weekend at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama in May. The first in a new wave of high-profile USA historic events co-founded by Indy 500 winner Bobby Rahal, the meeting combined vintage racing, charity events and a racing-themed film festival with a 100-car closed-road run, which gave thousands of onlookers a chance to see racing machinery which normally never leaves the track. Rahal drove a McLaren M1B Can-Am car.
Saturday’s race practice climaxed in a charity gala where Andretti, the only driver to win the F1 World Championship, Indy 500 and Daytona 500, spoke about his career and motor sport’s future before an auction of Andretti-related items including wine from the ace’s winery. Proceeds went to the Barber circuit’s Motorsports Museum, which contains the largest racing Lotus collection anywhere as well as 1200 motorcycles, and the Winning through Giving charity administered by Paul Newman’s family.
Sunday’s programme began with Andretti hosting a fan forum and giving rides in a Lotus Evora before waving off an all-Lotus race in his capacity as Grand Marshal. Races for Historic Grand Prix cars, Can-Am, IMSA, Trans-Am and sports cars from the ’50s to Group C were also included. Chris Bender took his March 821 to a Historic Grand Prix win, with Rahal ﬁfth in a Hesketh 308C. Rahal made the podium in the Can-Am event, driving the McLaren to third, but the victor was Peter Stoneberg in a Lotus 23B. Other winners included Keith Frieser (Lola T290) in IMSA, Dave Olson (23C) in the Lotus invitational race, Andy Gilberg (Royale RP-20) in the Classic Monoposto/Formula Libre/F5000 event, and Sean Ryan (Chevrolet Camaro) in Trans-Am/Thunder and Lightning.
Those involved felt the new event set a high standard for vintage racing stateside – “a travelling Goodwood” one entrant called it.
By the time this issue appears, the second Legends of Motorsports meeting will have taken place at Watkins Glen, celebrating Porsche, with Vic Elford as Grand Marshal.